Q&A on teacher evaluation and improvement plan

May 12, 2010 5:02 PM

On May 11, the UFT, NYSUT and the State Education Department announced a new agreement — subject to legislative approval — to create a teacher evaluation and improvement plan. Under the new agreement, which would take effect in September 2011, the evaluation process will be more objective, be based mostly on qualitative measures and limit the role of test scores.

How will the teacher evaluation system change?

The current evaluation system doesn’t work for us as a profession. It is totally subjective and too dependent on the whims of administrators. The new system, which would move us forward as a profession, will establish specific criteria that incorporate multiple measures of evaluating teacher performance. The new system embeds professional development in the evaluation system. Teacher evaluation was never meant to be a gotcha system. It was supposed to allow teachers to grow and develop professionally throughout their careers.

How will teachers be judged under the new system?

The new system will be much fairer and more objective. Currently, teachers can be evaluated on eight criteria: content knowledge, pedagogical practices, instructional delivery, classroom management, knowledge of student development, use of assessment techniques/data, effective collaborative relationships, and reflection of teaching practices. The new system adds one more criteria: student growth. The new scoring rubric will prevent administrators from manipulating the rating system to rate a teacher ineffective. Teachers would be measured on a 100-point scale, with 60 percentage points based on multiple measures such as observations and peer review (locally negotiated with the union), 20 percentage points based on student growth on state exams where applicable, and another 20 percentage points based on locally selected measures of student achievement that are determined to be rigorous and comparable across classrooms (to be locally negotiated with the UFT). In two years, after the state Board of Regents adopts a value-added growth model (the UFT will be part of the group that will be selecting the model), 25 percent of the rating would be based on the state exams where applicable and 15 percent would come from local measures of student achievement with 60 percent still based on measures such as observation and peer review. The evaluation would result in a composite score based on the multiple measures that would place teachers in one of four categories — highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective – with the maximum and minimum scores for each category set by the state.

How much say will teachers have in the new system?

Throughout the process, the role of collective bargaining is maintained, and, in many ways, strengthened. All of the elements comprising the composite score must be developed through state and local negotiations. The agreement states that the new teacher evaluation and improvement system would also be a “significant factor” in employment decisions such as a career ladder to positions such as lead teacher, mentor or coach that could lead to supplemental compensation, promotion into administrative positions, and tenure determination as well as in teacher professional development. But how the evaluations will figure into those decisions must be determined locally through collective bargaining. If no agreement can be reached, the old system will remain in place.

Won’t teachers be reluctant to teach high-needs students if student test scores become one component of their evaluation?

On the contrary, the new system no longer penalizes a teacher who chooses to work with high-needs students. The student achievement component of the evaluation system would be based on a growth model – getting a student from one point to the next; it would not be based on whether all students reached a certain proficiency level. As a teacher, if you have helped your students to progress academically, no matter where they started from, your achievement would be recognized.

How much weight will the new system give to standardized tests?

At a time when other states (Tennessee, Delaware, Rhode Island, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Colorado and Louisiana) have agreed to base 50 percent of teacher evaluations on student growth measures, this agreement caps the number at 25 percent. (The DOE, needless to say, had wanted a much higher percentage.) The remaining 15 percent of the rating based on student achievement will include multiple measures that are considered rigorous and comparable across classrooms such as student portfolios. Those measures will need to be selected in negotiations between the union and the DOE.

How will the new system evaluate teachers who do not teach classes that culminate with students taking standardized state tests?

For those teachers, 40 percent of the individual’s evaluation will be based on locally developed multiple measures of student achievement and the other 60 percent would be based on measures such as observation and peer review. Both components need to be negotiated with the union. If and how this agreement pertains to functional chapters needs to be negotiated.

How will the new system affect functional chapter members?

The new evaluation system must also describe the criteria to be used to evaluate teachers providing pupil personnel services. Those criteria will need to be developed in negotiations between the UFT and the DOE.

Does the new agreement make it easier for schools to fire teachers deemed ineffective?

Absolutely not. The new agreement safeguards the due process rights of our members and requires that the school system provides support to struggling teachers tailored to their needs. The new evaluation system will allow the rest of the state to follow the faster, fairer process for those facing incompetence charges that was part of the rubber room agreement we recently reached with the mayor and the DOE.

What is the Teacher Improvement Plan and how would it be implemented?

Teachers who are identified as “developing” or “ineffective” would receive no later than 10 days from the date they report to work in September a Teacher Improvement Plan aimed at supporting that teacher’s professional growth. The plan would have to be mutually agreed upon by the teacher and the principal. It would include identification of areas in need of improvement, a timeline for achieving improvement, how the improvement will be assessed, and, where appropriate, differentiated activities to support a teacher’s improvement in those areas. This professional development component of the evaluation system would be developed locally through collective bargaining with the UFT. The DOE will be required to document that such a plan was implemented before any disciplinary action against a teacher can be taken. This is an unprecedented requirement in an evaluation system. Teachers who have been rated ineffective will also have the opportunity to appeal that rating. A teacher cannot be brought up on 3020a charges before the conclusion of the appeals process. The bottom line is that the DOE will be held accountable for supporting struggling teachers with a concrete, customized plan of action.

How will the new evaluation system affect the granting of tenure?

We did not change the tenure law. Any linkage between this agreement and tenure determination must be decided through collective bargaining. In New York City, teacher tenure decisions have been subjective up to now. Right now, a principal can deny tenure to a teacher with virtually no documentation. With this new agreement, the tenure process has the potential to become more thoughtful and objective.

How does the new system benefit teachers?

It reduces the subjectivity of the current rating system.
It changes the focus of evaluations from discipline to improvement.
It provides genuine support for struggling teachers.
It limits the influence of state tests on teacher evaluations.
It safeguards teacher and union voice in the evaluation system.